The Case for Serfdom

Andrew links to the chart below under the small-government crowd’s historic bit of bombastic titling, “The Road to Serfdom”, and it comes to Andrew from Radley Balko who requests “Perhaps someone on the left (or for that matter, the right — since they’ve mostly been in charge of the government the last six years) can explain why having more than half the country’s income dependent on the government (and rising) is in any way a healthy development.”

Well this is obviously an incomplete answer, but I think Radley and Andrew need to give this chart another look. Do they really look at changes in American society between 1950 and 2007 and feel that this is a story of creeping serfdom and enslavement? I see a population that’s a lot healthier, longer-lived, and better educated than the one of 1950; a population where radically fewer people suffer from severe economic deprivation in absolute terms even as millions of impoverished people form around the world have moved to our shores.

I also see a population that, as a result of prosperity, is aging and it’s a society that’s prosperous enough for elderly people to generally not work and where retirees are given some public-sector guarantees of health care and economic security in their golden years. Most of all, I see a society that’s shown that both Marx and Hayek were wrong — that there’s no need for capitalism to entail the immiseration of the vast majority of the population, and no need for efforts to use the public sector to better the condition of the majority to lead to tyranny and Communism; it’s a society of democratic capitalism and social insurance and, despite its problems, it’s one of the very best places to live throughout the entire history of the world.